COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY — ★★ — Anna Mouglalis, Mads Mikkelsen, Elena Morozova; French with English subtitles (dialects); rated R (sex, nudity, violence); Broadway Centre

"Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" appears to be a cinematic "response" to last year's "Coco Before Chanel," a biographical drama that starred Audrey Tautou.

That film portrayed its title character, fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, as a mercurial but mostly likable person. The fact that the movie had the generally sunny presence of Tautou certainly didn't hurt.

But this drama seems determined to paint Chanel in a much-less flattering light. And this time she's played by actress Anna Mouglalis, whose facial expressions range from dour to even more dour.

Thanks to her performance, the oddly icy, clinical tone and the sometimes sexually graphic, the film quickly turns into a dull slog.

It's based on the novel of the same name by Chris Greenhalgh, who wrote this adaptation.

The film starts just prior to the beginning of World War I, and according to this version of events, Coco was still involved with her lover, Arthur "Boy" Capel (Anatole Taubman), when she first met the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen).

She's there to witness the Paris debut of his "The Rite of Spring," a ballet that set off riots at the time and nearly threatened to end his career.

The two meet up years later under better circumstances. Coco has become a fan of his music and offers a home to the nearly penniless Igor, his ailing wife, Katarina (Elena Morozova) and their children.

At first, their relationship is strictly professionally. But eventually they become lovers, causing friction in the household.

Much of Dutch director Jan Kounen's film consists of static reactions shots. And while Mouglalis has become a spokesmodel for the Chanel brand, her performance isn't even supermodel quality.

As for Mikkelsen, his expression suggests that he may have swallowed something bad, and he sulks through most of his scenes.

Frankly, Morozova's sickly Katarina is much more interesting than either of them. Unfortunately, she's just there as a background character.

"Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" is rated R and features simulated sex and other sexual contact, female and partial male nudity, and some brief but disturbing violent imagery (warfare, seen in newsreel footage). Running time: 116 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com